He eyed the clock suspiciously. It was 3:50 half an hour ago. How could it possibly be five to four now? He’d eaten his meal, swallowed the vitamins and even had that foul green-looking thing on his plate. ‘It’s good for your eyes’, said Uncle. And Rafa always listened to his Uncle.
He stared petulantly at the clock, tapping his feet and cracking his knuckles. ‘Come on!’ he yelled. As soon as the second met the minute at 12, with the hour looking on from 4, Rafa was out the door. He felt joyous, free and ready to take on the world. He slammed the door, opened the garden gate with one hand, holding his cricket bat and ball in the other and was off. The ground was ten minutes from where he lived… no, nine and a half since Tuesday. With a shy, proud smile on his face, he kept running.
The ground was long, not uniform in breadth, and had a cement slab for a pitch. There were three proper entrances on various sides of the ground, one of which was a hole in the wall. At the far end was a small gate, but that wasn’t close to where Rafa stayed. He used the entrance at the opposite end of the field, the one which was closer to the ‘pitch’. There was a wall on the leg side, which was covered with tennis ball pockmarks. The other end had a small fence, beyond which was the street. A very make-do-with-what-you-have arrangement, but would we want to have it any other way?
He reached the playground, but it was empty. He wasn’t surprised, no one turned up before four thirty anyway. Roger wouldn’t be there for another forty five minutes, Rafa knew that. He smiled again, with the sun glaring down on him. He could play for an extra half hour. He reached his favourite spot on the ground, near the peepal tree by the far end. He propped his bat up, resting its handle carefully on a little crick in the trunk that he liked to imagine had been made just for him. Indeed, no one was allowed to keep his bat there.
After diligently doing the stretches Uncle Toni had taught him (Rafa had hurt his knee in school, but that wouldn’t stop him from playing, nothing would), he took his bat and ball to the wall which doubled as the leg side boundary, and started practice.
It was at least twenty minutes before he heard a voice in the distance. He stopped and saw Andy’s mother dropping him off by the gate. Shaking his head, he got back to what he was doing. ‘Stupid Andy. Does his mother have to come everywhere?’
At the other end, Andy, a tall boy for his age, kissed his mother goodbye. ‘You be good now Andy’. Yes ma. ‘I want you to win today. Do you want to win?’ I don’t know Ma, it’s just a ga..’Andy. You’re going to win. Goodbye’. And she was off.